In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?
The Truth is out there…so we’re told.
In Episode 4, William and Patrick examined the reasons that understanding “food miles” are important to you and your family. Join them now as they explore the flip side.
WILLIAM: Wow, Patrick, you look so much better than you did last week! I guess those “organic” aspirin helped the headache you had, huh? The truth about “food miles” will give anyone a headache, that is for sure!
As I have learned, the distance a product travels farm-to-table—or in our specific case, since we live in the special events world, “farm-to-party”—and the corresponding carbon footprint, can be a very, very big deal. As a chef, as a foodie and as a father, I have become an avowed locavore, now that my learning curve has revealed some real truth on the subject.
PATRICK: Yep, I’m loving that locavore thing, William. Now if we could just find a way to cook kudzu, we’d be heroes. Well, I guess we’d have to do more than cook it. As caterers, we’d have to find a way to make it actually taste great. And of course as a health nut, I’d want my local kudzu to be grown organically, dang it.
WILLIAM: I see a shredded kudzu slaw in a light grapefruit vinaigrette with toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cherries in your future…
PATRICK: And then just think, William, overnight one of our biggest problems—the increasing population growth of scary kudzu sculptures—would become one of our greatest assets! There’s even a food trend named after this concept. People who eat invasive plants and animals to lessen the devastation that those invaders do to their local environment are called invasivores. Like Chinese Mysterysnails at Potato Creek.
WILLIAM: Uh…ICK. That’s just wrong, guy. I’m really not so fond of any dish with the word “mystery” in it.
Back on the locavore front…everything about being a locavore appeals to me. For a caterer, nothing tastes better than freshly picked local produce—a chef’s dream. Plus it keeps dollars in our local economy, and it encourages farming—a saintly profession that is increasingly showing a decline in the United States. Which is a shame because some of the young people entering the farming industry are having a blast…have a look at this video:
PATRICK: Got it. Local is Good. Local is Good. Local is Good. If we just keep repeating that mantra, someday it will drown out the noise of these reality checks…Is buying direct from the farmer an efficient and sustainable way to feed ourselves? What demons must we slay to get our hungry hands on that local produce?
WE can end up being a part of the inefficiency of the food distribution system. Think about this: Most of us have to drive past a dozen grocery stores to get to our nearest farmers market. That accounts for additional petroleum consumption that would be saved if we had simply shopped with our local grocer.
WILLIAM: You just made me think of something related to events, Patrick. Many of my clients, both bridal and corporate are actually VERY conscience of how the design and logistics of their celebration has an effect on the environment. And more often than not, specifically the food miles that are involved. To these folks, local sourcing is super important!
But stick here with me…Let’s say for, example, that you are a corporate client conducting a regional sales meeting and you have people coming to town from various states. Similarly, you may be a bride with several family members and friends coming to your wedding from all over the globe! If you think of the travel miles and therefor the carbon footprint involved, the very LEAST you want to do as a food consumer is to buy local to off-set at least a fraction of those miles, wouldn’t you?
PATRICK: Yes, precisely! And in those two scenarios you mentioned, William, we are talking large groups of people often—100 +or more. Many miles traveled and large quantities of raw materials and ingredients that traveled to get there too.
And here’s another piece of the puzzle…Not all parts of the country are meant to cultivate all foods. We’re lucky to live in Georgia, where there’s a terrific variety of produce that can be grown. But even in Atlanta there are weeks when I think I’d rather become a permanent juicer—NOT!—than eat more of those dark leafy greens.
WILLIAM: Need inspiration? Want to get motivated? Need a model to learn from and apply in your own personal way? Two words: Barbara Kingsolver. She wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, a remarkable book, and she’s a true local-foodie.
She came to the realization that she’d have to leave Tucson, Arizona, for Virginia to have a realistic shot at her commitment to eating locally grown food exclusively for a year. Growing local agriculture in places like Tucson is a drain on precious water resources. There, importing part of their food supply is essential, at least with current water technologies.
PATRICK: Yeah, so in case you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Atlantans have some of the highest water bills in the country. But wait. Within 10 years, we’ll be in the middle of the pack. “Water Wars” will be erupting across the nation—we are simply ahead of that awful curve.
WILLIAM: How are we going to water our kudzu? Oh the thought of shriveled kudzu twisting in the dry wind…
PATRICK: You should really see someone, William, about that imagination of yours. Well…moving on…Just recently, Las Vegas passed a set of new water rates, and guess who isn’t picking up a big share of the cost increases? Well, I’m not calling out any names, but try walking down the Strip without getting splashed.
The “Splashers” are still seeing relatively low rates. What about the local homeowners and my fellow caterers and restaurateurs? Well, we’ll just call them “The Splash-ees”.
WILLIAM: Precious resources. Water. Fertile land. Farming talent. All reasons in my book to buy locally. Not to mention the added benefit of the three “f”s…
PATRICK: Easy there, boy…careful.
WILLIAM: The three food “f”s, you silly detective! FLAVOR, FLAVOR AND MORE FLAVOR!
We will never abandon our beloved Saturday morning strolls through our favorite farmers market. Don’t you just love the “Green Market” on Saturday mornings in Piedmont Park? You should have seen the amazing golden beets I got there recently. They were rich and earthy and a perfect pairing with a little dressing and some Chevre from Sweet Grass Dairy. Green Market has finished for the season, but fortunately Atlanta has a number of year-round farmers markets!
Let’s just be conscious of the advantages and disadvantages of those markets vs. the mega-marts, and let’s make a commitment to be smarter about what we buy.
PATRICK: And I’ll, uh, pass on the Chinese Mysterysnails, too, thank you very much!
To be continued…
Are you a locavore? Do you travel distances just to get to a farmers market? Have you ever questioned the true Green value in that? Please, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Join us next week when Special Agents Patrick Cuccaro and William Neal investigate the mystifying practices of Trappist Monks. Marvel as they reveal the amazing Green practices of our local Brewmeisters!
This week’s 3Rs…
REVEALED: Emory Farmers Market
REVERED: Barbara Kingslover
REVILED: Pink Slime